If you are satisfied with your kick design, you have also to be happy with your bass. Psy-Trance is clearly a matter of perfect glue between these 2 elements. Like for the kick design, it can takes years to achieve a real professional psy-trance bass sound. And as for the kick, the best way is to fix the sound of your bass at an early stage of sound design and not at mixing or mastering stage.
"designing a psy-trance bass is the number one challenge."
For serious psy-trance producers, bass is as relevant as kick design. And sometimes when you are a bit lazy or with hard deadlines, you will prefer to work with some bass audio samples. But you will have to deal with the audio process, by the way.
Of course, there are plenty of software synths for designing a psy-trance bass and endless possibilities to achieve a good result, depending on what kind of bass sound you want to make. Do you want it mono or stereo? dark vibe or fullon vibe? progpsy ambiance? This is fully related to the mood of your track but the only thing which will never change is the chain process, if you want to sound "pro".
In this quick tip, we will use our favourite soft synth for psy-trance bass, the mighty Dune 1 by Synapse Audio, with its beautiful Ladder 12/24dB LP filter. To give you a good overview and startpoint on how to design a psy-trance bass, you can check our upcoming collection of presets for Dune: "PsyBass Vol.1" which will be available within few days.
Then, let see what kind of audio process we are making to our bass design. We usually need 1 multiband saturator, 1 digital EQ, 1 analog EQ, 1 multiband compressor, 1 sidechain compressor.
Chain Process should respect the following order:
Multiband Saturator > Digital EQ > Analog EQ > Multiband Compressor > Sidechain Compressor
Saturator, Compressors and EQs choice
- Multiband Saturator: Saturn by FabFilter
- Digital EQ: Pro-Q 3 by FabFilter
- Analog EQ: BX Console SSL 4000G by Plugin Alliance
- Multiband Compressor: L3-LL Multimaximizer by Waves
- Sidechain Compressor: Ableton live 10
Multiband Processing, why?
This will allow you to sculpt more precisely the sound of your bass, in addition to your soft synth preset or audio sample. The secret weapon of a successful psy-trance bass is to choose and find the correct crossover frequencies for each multiband plugins. You always have to keep in mind that your ears is the king, but your red line is phasing issues. Be careful and check twice before validating the sound you hear. Visualize your oscillator analyzer to always verify phase issues before bouncing any audio file.
Like for the kick, you need to use your ears afterall. You can spend weeks and weeks to achieve a pro result, but the only way is to use your ears and tweak, tweak and tweak your multiband saturator, compressor and EQs. The only thing to be careful is to avoid your plugins working too "hard".
Sidechain Compression: The Ducking Effect
Suitable but not always necessary. It's a common technique in psy-trance productions to use sidechain compression as a ducking effect. We are using the Sidechain Compressor from Ableton Live 10. For a ducking effect, you must activate the sidechain function to the left of the plugin. Then, in the selector "audio from", put a one-shot trigger of your choice. it can be your actual kick or an external one, like a hi-hat, for example, which allow faster reactivity to the duck effect. Then, you can also use the EQ of the compressor with an high-pass filter type and tweaking it to your best sounding result. The other settings of this sidechain compressor is up to you, but you can use a soft ratio of 2:1 with a -20db treshold and max 1db of gain addition. Your ducking effect should stay between 3 and 6 db of gain reduction. We do not use oftenly the knee and lookafter paramaters for this effect.
Mono or Stereo Bass?
This is definatly up to you. Decision is usually made at sound design stage but also at a later stage of production, like mixing stage. Indeed, if you finally want to have a bass from mono to stereo and vice-versa, it's simply a question of layering or, doubling the voice and using 2 or more oscillators in your soft synth.
So if you design your bass in stereo using several oscillators, FM mode, etc... don't forget to use the stereo version plugins on your chain process, and the mono versions, if you make it in mono.
While designing in stereo can apply many interesting results, please keep in mind your goal is to balance carefully the low-end of your bass with other elements of your track: kick, leads, drums, fxs... Most of the time, we start with a mono sound, simply to optimize our workflow and time in the studio. Indeed, this "quest" can be a long mission and should be processed in a separate timeline from your daily job. Try to explore stereo bass design in the weekend for example, when you are more creative. Of course, you can add a bit of stereo to your bass, just by layering with some other synth sounds and filtering them carefully. More details of this sound design technique will be added soon to our blog, in a dedicated quick tip.
"Psy-Trance bass offer endless possibilities of sound design."
Let's open an instance of Dune 1 or a preset model from our "Psybass" presets collection for Dune 1 and have a wonderful time by designing your killer bass!
Next quick tips will talk about Bassline for the perfect blend between kick and bass.
What's your actual chain process for your psy-trance bass? Share your experience with us by letting a comment below.